The Perpich Center for Arts Education saw mixed results from this year’s legislative session, with its arts high school in Golden Valley being saved but its grades six-to-10 magnet school in Woodbury at risk of closure.
Enter the St. Paul Public Schools — and interim Superintendent John Thein, a skilled hand at school takeovers.
On Tuesday, the St. Paul school board agreed to pursue a lease with the state allowing the district to run the Crosswinds Arts and Science School for at least a year.
The proposal is similar to a 2013 move by Thein, then the superintendent of the Roseville School District, to manage a Maplewood magnet school that was being shuttered by the East Metro Integration District (EMID). It comes at a time of ongoing budget strife for St. Paul, which found itself on Tuesday having to plug a $20.1 million budget gap for the coming school year.
In 2013, the Perpich Center stepped in to save Crosswinds, also being run at the time by EMID, only to see enrollment and test scores plummet. This year, Crosswinds had just 129 students, well below its low point of 349 students when managed by EMID.
By promoting the integration of students in St. Paul and its suburbs, Crosswinds continues to be of value to the east metro, said John Brodrick, a St. Paul school board member who was an appointee to the EMID board in 2013. “St. Paul’s had skin in this game for many, many years,” he said.
The district also appears to be the only hope for Crosswinds to stay alive in 2017-18.
The Perpich Center no longer has authority to run the school, under a state education finance bill that also sets the stage for the building to be sold.
Crosswinds is situated within the South Washington County School District, and while that school system is interested in buying the building, it is “not interested in running it for a year at what would be a deficit for us,” spokeswoman Barbara Brown said Tuesday.
The state Department of Administration notified Thein last week that a lease must be negotiated by June 28 in order for St. Paul to operate the school.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote calls for Thein, the district’s general counsel and a board member to enter into talks. If a deal is reached, it would be presented to the board for approval.